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Change is God-Take Root Among the Stars: Black Abstraction in the Midwest



Saturday, July 30th Schedule: Artists Panel Discussion Moderated by Gregory J Rose 5-6PM Then the closing reception 6-8PM

Exhibition Runs: June 12 – July 30, 2022

Visit our youtube channel HERE to watch artist interviews, new ones will be added every week.


Artists: Ta-Coumba Aiken, Bruce Armstrong, Art by .E Lewis, Barber, Alexandra Beaumont, Monica J. Brown, Amirah Cunningham, Nicole Davis, Christopher E. Harrison, Stephanie Lindquist, Erica Maria Littlejohn, Naima Lowe, Taj Matumbi, Lela Pierce, Kehayr Brown-Ransaw, Marcus Rothering, and Sarah White.


Curated by Gregory J Rose


"Take Root Among the Stars: Black Abstraction in the Midwest" is an exhibition that will illuminate new approaches and strategies for Black Abstractionists to respond to this historical time with the freedom to imagine beyond this earth and beyond the art historical canon. 


The exhibition title is in reference to Science Fiction Writer Octavia Butler's two-volume collection, The Earthseed Books, a story that depicts a society in the aftermath of a worldwide ecological and economic apocalypse. The protagonist in this new world is guided by "The Book of the Living." In passage 44 of "The Book of the Living" there is a passage that reads, "the words of welcoming." This exhibition is also a welcoming for Midwest artists using Abstraction as their framework to speak to this new time.


We all have gone through "Changes” since the tragedy of George Floyd and the global pandemic, particularly in the Midwest, demonstrating examples of these "Changes" to our nation and the world. The Midwest erupted with cries for change and has redefined how we see this new world. We are at a crucial moment in time. Abstraction, specifically Black Abstraction, is not a static form of communication nor a rigid concept but rather an unfixed, fluid, and ever-evolving “language” that is both opaque and transparent; open to interpretation and reinterpretation.


Although inevitable, change is not swift or easy, but things are shifting. This exhibition seeks to discover what shifts are occurring within the canon of abstraction through the lens of the Black experience. The curator and abstract painter Gregory J Rose is interested in new ways of working and defining black abstraction. This new model is not fixed or dependent upon static ideas; Rose is interested in seeing shifts, how individuals redefine limits and showing the complexities of thought. New ways of being are always an abstraction making way for new ways of seeing. It welcomes a new abstraction that moves indiscriminately through different media and reaches beyond the formal abstractions of what we know, and enters into the space of what we might not yet know. Rose has selected artists that speak to this new moment and whose work will distinctly mark this period in time.


Curatorial Statement from Gregory J. Rose: I wanted to welcome Black Abstractionists of the Midwest- home. Home in the sense of the exorbitant feeling of peace, the smells, the unexplained nostalgia- when I entered Africa Via Senegal. My first-time home to the place it all began for us. I am American, Black, and an artist who thrives in the abstract- and I live, work, and care for my family in the Midwest. After a few days in Senegal, I was adopted by Ahmed/Mohamed – of the Baye Fall Sufi Muslim Sect of Senegal; I was given the name: Fallou, after Mame Fallou Gallas. The Baye Fall fed me; we ate from the same bowl and shared coffee, stories, and knowledge. I was home and plan to go back someday; back to the night we spent below the stars on the beach- celebrating the new year 2018- turned to 2019.


Coming back to the Midwest and fast-forwarding to this exhibition and this group of artists- like the stars above on that New Year’s Eve- we aligned and are beginning to celebrate by growing through change. The intersectionality and universality of our fragmented stories and journeys are mapping a guide for our families back home. In all the ways home is defined for we Black folk- we Black abstractionists in the Midwest. Portals to new ways of scientifically analyzing our existence on our terms, from the earth through to the multitude of galaxies we all can discover and expeditions waiting for our engagement. Transformations of the soul and resurrection of geographic histories unfold through many forms of media.


I wanted the world to know who we are and what stories we have to share. I wanted those who also feel like most of us -Black folk – a lot of us Black Abstractionists. A little lost -until you smell home, feel home, see home. I think these artists and the work I have chosen come full circle for me. Looking into their eyes -and engaging with their work feels like the freedom and possibilities that come from swimming for the first time in Africa with your brother-peace Badda. Peace and love to all our family in Change is God-Take Root Among the Stars: Black Abstraction in the Midwest.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and sponsored by Nightingale MPLS.

About the Curator: 

Gregory J. Rose (Minneapolis, MN) is an East Coast native transplanted in the Mid-West. Formally educated at The Pennsylvania State University, Gregory received his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in 2000 and his Master of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Minnesota in 2004-both with a concentration in Drawing and Painting. Gregory has been teaching for Minnesota State since 2003 and is Fine Arts Faculty at Minneapolis College based in Minneapolis. Gregory has exhibited in New York and many other US cities and has built an international career. Namely known as a painter, Gregory J. Rose has been a creative force working in – Music and work in TV Commercials; The Fine Arts, Art Education, and Community Engagement adding to his growing Global presence.


About the Artists: 

Ta-Coumba Aiken (Saint Paul, MN) has been an artist/art activist for over forty years. Aiken is the force behind some of Minnesota’s most acclaimed public artworks. Since the early 1970s, he has created public art in collaboration with schools, neighborhood organizations, and city planning and development departments on works such as the Jax / Gillette Children’s Hospital mural, the Minneapolis Central Library’s fourth-floor fireplace, Seventh and Robert Street Municipal parking ramp, the Good Thunder Grain Elevator North Side’s Pilot City murals project. He supports the use of his artwork by organizations involved in pursuing social justice. Aiken was recently named as a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow. 


Bruce Armstrong (Indianapolis, IN) is an Indianapolis-based, contemporary visual artist well-known for his prolific full-time multimedia art practice. The self-taught abstract artist, photographer, and sculptor emphasizes distinctive and colorful two and 3-dimensional pieces, travel, street scenes, and black and white photography. Many of his acrylic paintings, photos, and sculptural work utilize symbols and figuration to tell stories that are compellingly personal yet with worldly significance. Armstrong has exhibited throughout the Midwest, including at the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center and the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.


Art by .E Lewis (Kansas City, MO) is a transformative textile and performing artist who can formulate fabrics and seams into beautiful stories. Her visionary process evokes and informs viewers by exploring tangible and verbal art forms. The art quilts, abstracts, and panels are music notes, adinkra symbols, feathers, beads, prints, patterns, and denim.  Researching and studying the journey of her ancestors play an essential role in designing, displaying, and promoting artwork.  The primary purpose of sewing seams and applying a story is to engage, empower and educate viewers of Art by .E Lewis’s creations about the history and struggle of African-Americans. As a textile and performing artist, she is honored to teach and share the journey of enslaved Africans in america through art. Art by .E Lewis is in the permanent collection of the Black Archives of Mid-America and exhibited throughout the Midwest.


Barber (Chicago, IL)  uses interdisciplinary art practices to articulate various testimonies within and surrounding Black America. Barber received his BFA from the Savannah School of Art and Design and his MFA from the University of Iowa. In 2020 he received a USArtists International grant from Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation and exhibited his work in numerous solo exhibitions throughout the Midwest.


Alexandra Beaumont (Minneapolis, MN) is a textile artist and dancer. She was born and raised in South Carolina to a Jamaican father and American mother, both working musicians. She attended the residential South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities throughout high school, focusing on dance and visual arts, and then to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, where she studied fashion design. After working in New York City as a menswear designer, she returned to a fine arts practice, incorporating her love for fabrics and hand sewing. She now lives in Minneapolis, MN, where she makes work centering on themes of personal reconstruction, community, and celebratory display.


Monica J. Brown (Chicago, IL) explores memory, history, and personal mythology through visual art, sound, movement, writing, and performance. She has exhibited nationally, including at the DuSable Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry, and internationally including at Jiujiang University in China. Brown has also created public murals with Chicago's Hubbard Street Mural Project and Detroit's Live6 Neighborhood Arts Project, and presented a solo performance at Prop Theatre in Chicago and the Columbus Performing Arts Center in Ohio. Monica is a Ucross fellow and has attended residencies at Atlantic Center for the Arts, Ragdale, and Dorland Mountain Arts Colony. She has received grants supporting her work from Chicago DCASE, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and Columbia College's Albert P. Weisman Award. Monica Brown earned a BFA from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles; and an MA from Columbia College Chicago. She currently resides in Chicago.


Amirah Cunningham (Euclid, OH) is a conceptual visual artist working primarily with themes related to mass incarceration, identity, race, and freedom. Cunningham was born in Cleveland, OH, and attended The Cleveland Institute of Art, where she received a BFA in both Drawing and Printmaking in 2018.  Recently she presented her work at the IPCNY in Manhattan, NYC. Patterns, symbols, and metaphors drive her aesthetics. The artist often uses a tally mark pattern to symbolize time and bondage. At times, she pairs these tally marks with images of the human figure to convey the idea of America's current African American conditions.


Nicole Davis (Milan, IL)  is a visual artist based in Illinois, working primarily in textile, photography, and painting rooted in Black feminist practice, memory, and identity. Davis evokes personal, ancestral, and cultural memory as a form of sustenance and resistance in opposition to current societal structures of heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism. Drawing attention to marginalized voices and challenging harmful power structures allows her to tell a different story from the one society declares as truth. Nicole served as an educator in the public school system for twenty-one years before pivoting to art. She received an MFA degree with honors from the University of Iowa in 2020.

Christopher E. Harrison (Brooklyn Park, MN) is a fine artist, public artist, and graphic designer in Minneapolis. He creates paintings and sculptures in his Northeast Minneapolis studio. Harrison is an Ohio native who received his BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design (OH) and MFA from the Academy of Art University (CA). And he has recently held teaching positions at the Walker Art Center (MN), Minneapolis College of Art & Design, and The College of St. Benedict (MN). He has shown locally, nationally, and internationally, with group shows in Senegal, Ecuador, and the United Kingdom. Harrison has created public art for North Minneapolis as well. His work has been supported with grant funding by The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, The Jerome Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the City of Minneapolis, and MRAC Next Step. Christopher was the 2019 recipient of the Elizabeth Murray Artist Foundation Residency.

Stephanie Lindquist (Minneapolis, MN) finds inspiration through making, gardening, and cooking. She invests in knowing her ancient roots and diverse knowledge systems that provide insight into our modern challenges around sustainability. Her work focuses on diaspora, race, gender, sexuality, technology, economy, and how elders share food traditions and land stewardship. Lindquist received her BA from Columbia University and is currently pursuing her MFA at the University of Minnesota. Her work has been exhibited throughout the US, including Google Headquarters, Smack Mellon, the New York Public Library, the Allen Hospital, The New Museum, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, SPRING/BREAK Art Show, the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, and Memorial Union Gallery of North Dakota State University.


Erica Maria Littlejohn (Chicago, IL) is a multidisciplinary artist currently based in Chicago, Illinois. She explores the nuances of liminal identity and celebrates marginalized histories through archival and found materials in her practice. Born and raised in Oakland, California, Littlejohn received her BA in Studio Art from Kenyon College and will graduate with an MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in May 2022. Through weaving, video, works on paper, and robust research practice, she seeks to create space for community engagement in conversations about the multiplicity of Black identity and culture.


Naima Lowe (Tulsa, OK) is a writer, visual artist, and filmmaker who collaborates and improvises with her parents and other Black, queer, disabled, and working-class artists. She earned her BA from Brown University and MFA from Temple University and has exhibited at Anthology Film Archive, Wing Luke Museum, MiX Experimental Film Festival, National Queer Art Festival, and the Henry Art Gallery. Naima has been an artist in residence at Millay Colony, Vermont Studio Center, Jack Straw Cultural Center, and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art. She’s currently a Mid America Arts Alliance Interchange Artist Fellow and recipient of the Jazz Road Creative Residency Grant. Naima resides in Tulsa, within the Muscogee Creek Nation Reservation, where she spends her time being free and talking to animals.


Taj Matumbi (Madison, WI) was born and raised in Chico, California. He received his BFA in Iowa at the Maharishi International University (MIU) in ceramics and painting and recently earned his MFA in painting and drawing at UW-Madison. Taj’s practice explores personal narrative as a biracial African American through a naive vernacular of western icons like horses, boots, and cowboys, bridging real and imaginary spaces. Taj is currently in several group shows across the US, such as Koplin Del Rio Gallery in Seattle, WA; Maus Contemporary Gallery in Birmingham, AL; and Levee Contemporary Gallery in Princeton, WI.


Lela Pierce (Minneapolis, MN) is a Black multiracial artist who grew up in rural Mni Sota Makoce on the ancestral land of the Dakota and Anishinaabe people. She has lived in the Twin Cities for nearly two decades -maintaining artistic practices in painting, performance, and installation work. Lela has danced extensively with Ananya Dance Theatre as a founding member (2004-2016) as well as Rosy Simas Danse and Pramila Vasudevan of Anichha Arts (both 2015-present). In 2018 she was awarded a Jerome Emerging Artist Fellowship for visual art. Her work has been presented internationally in both Sweden and India, as well as in several Twin Cities venues. Lela holds a BA in Studio Art with Honors from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, and is currently pursuing an MFA at the University of Minnesota.


Kehayr Brown-Ransaw (Minneapolis, MN) is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, and curator based in Bde Óta Othúŋwe/Mnísota (Minneapolis/Minnesota). Brown-Ransaw’s practice engages in conversations of individualism v. collectivism, familial histories, concepts of gendered work, tradition, and Blackness/Black identity through quilting, weaving, and printmaking. He has exhibited work at the University of Minnesota, FilmNorth, Vine Arts Center, and BI Worldwide, with public works at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design Sculpture Garden. He is the recipient of a 2020/21 Emerging Curators Institute (ECI) Emerging Curator Fellowship, 2020/21 Jerome Early Career Fellowship, 2021 Franconia Sculpture Park Mid-Career Artist Fellowship, and Artist in Residence at the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum. He is the recipient of an FY2021 State Arts Board Creative Support for Individuals grant, 2020 Visual Arts Fund Community Relief Grant from Midway Contemporary Art, and FY2020 Next Step Fund Award from the Metro Regional Arts Council.


Marcus Rothering (Minneapolis, MN) is a black queer artist exploring identity through clay and fibers. Rothering finds inspiration in textiles and their impact, along with African folklore and the spirits that live in those stories. The long, labor-intensive, and mindful processes allow Rothering to spend more time with each piece, which is cherished. In 2021 Rothering was named a Harlan Boss Foundation for the Arts Scholar and received his BA at Metropolitan State University. Starting in the Fall of 2022, Rothering will begin at the University of Minnesota pursuing an MFA. 


Sarah White (Minneapolis, MN) is an artist, photographer, trauma-informed body practitioner, and musician based in Minneapolis. Sarah’s work aims to relate to many ways to begin as a collective to tap back into our nervous systems; to find a home in our bodies during upheaval and resistance. Her almost decade-long studies in trauma and healing through pleasure, neuroplasticity, ritual, ceremony and soil inspire her art. Sarah’s visual and sonic work has been featured at the International Center of Photography and the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts in New York, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Marsden Gustafson Gallery at Film North, Public Functionary, and the Walker Art Center, just to name a few. Sarah is currently expanding and exploring new mediums as she studies deeper and deeper into unlearning and deconditioning from the systemic landscape.

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